Last chance in the Lords...

On the 5th March 2012 the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill will reach its final stage in the House of Lords – the report stage.

Despite vocal opposition to the Bill during the committee stage, the Bill remains a profoundly flawed piece of legislation which threatens access to justice for many vulnerable people. Aside from a few small concessions where the Government has indicated that it may reconsider its position – police station advice, special educational needs for 16-25 year olds and the power to bring areas of law back within the scope of legal aid – the Government gave little ground and the Bill has changed very little since it began its passage through the House of Commons in June 2011.

The report stage is the part of the process where it is expected that any real changes to the Bill will take place. Amendments have already been tabled by the Government to expand the definition of domestic violence and to preserve legal aid for clinical negligence cases involving babies.

If you have not done so already we are encouraging all of our members to take part in the Justice for All pair-up-with a peer scheme and write to a Peer and urge them to take part in the report stage debates. If you are already taking part please use this as a final opportunity to write to your peer. Please contact them now to ensure that your Peer is briefed in time for the debates.

A template letter prepared by Justice for All is available here.

YLAL has prepared an overview of the committee stage debates which is available here.

Briefings, endorsed by YLAL, tailored to key amendments which have been, or will be tabled are available below:

§  Legal aid for welfare benefits

§  Legal aid for onward appeals

§  Funding for exceptional cases

§  Legal aid for cases involving domestic violence

§  Legal aid for housing benefit advice in homelessness cases

§  The telephone gateway

§  The power to change the scope of legal aid

Please do take this final opportunity to write to a Peer!

If your Peer does not have an email address, you can use contactholmember@parliament.uk and ask for your email to be forwarded on.   Alternatively you can contact them through the Parliament switchboard on 020 7219 3000. 

See the Justice for All website for more information.